by Maverick Russel Flores and Bryan Ezra Gonzales
With many Filipinos still skeptical of the administration’s commitment to dispose of the pork barrel, the Million People March saw an inevitable sequel this year.
Resisting the scorching afternoon heat, various groups returned to the vast open space in front of Quirino Grandstand to express their disapproval of the alleged continuation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) ,also known as pork barrel, in the 2015 national budget and to register their support for the people’s initiative to dismantle all kinds of pork.
At the site, people lined the different stations located around the open space, hoping to change with their signature the future course of the country’s political train.
As repeated chants resonated among thousands converging at one end of Luneta Park, a certain participant of the day’s protest preached of his own take on the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as well as his presidential dream to passers-by and picnic-goers relaxing on the other end.
Armed with his own megaphone and a spurt of passion, Manong Ignacio walked the stretch of Luneta park and tirelessly attempted to convince ordinary park visitors to believe in his grand vision of running for the presidency. His 13-year-old daughter and a sympathetic neighbor accompanied him in his campaign, distributing statements which he himself wrote.
But Alejandro Ignacio, 76, was unlike most “presidentiables” who found their immediate beginnings in the plenary halls or showbiz industry. His only claim to fame was having been featured in GMA Network’s public service program, “Wish Ko Lang!”
A native of Pampanga, he now resides in Rodriguez, Rizal and drives a cab around Metro Manila, which gets him around P800-1000 a day to spend for his 12 children.
With none of his children having finished their studies, Ignacio remains the family’s sole breadwinner.
“Wala silang aasahan kundi ako (I’m the only one they can rely on),“ Ignacio said.
Despite his family’s situation, however, he worries more about the fate of his countrymen under the current government system.
Manong Ignacio once wrote a complaint to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), regarding the widespread cheating and vote-buying happening in every election. He said the commission appreciated and even admired his letter.
“[They told me that] the time will come that I will make the country a better place,” he said.
In hopes of erasing these election offenses for good, along with the rampant graft and corruption in the country, Ignacio has resolved to file for candidacy in the 2016 presidential race. He said, however, the battle he is about to enlist in does not favor principle, rather, which candidate has more “show money.”
“Ang pera, galing sa pork barrel scandal. Ang puhunan po nila, hindi nila pera, pera ng taumbayan (The money came from the pork barrel scandal. The capital they use is not their money, it’s the people’s money),” he said.
For Manong Ignacio and many others, the number of people who trooped to Luneta this year proves that the fight against the pork barrel system has definitely continued beyond the Million People March in 2013.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. estimated the crowd to be at around 20,000 people, while police estimated a peak attendance of 5,000.
But Manong Ignacio was not just a mere addition to these figures.
For a day, Manong Ignacio was able to present himself as a potential player in the country’s political arena, unfazed by the disgusting realities of the game and confident in his personal platform. All Filipinos possess such potential, but for now, they will continue to watch from the stands while those in power control the playing field.
Will we ever see the day when a humble taxi driver will triumph in the race for the highest position in the land?
Whoever crosses the finish line first is still uncertain, but the 2013 Million People March and its sequel this year have shown that ordinary people, like Mang Ignacio, are growing tired of sitting quietly on the bleachers.
The need for game-changers is greater than ever, and more people are getting ready to step up to the challenge.